An elderly Frenchman finally had pity on me. With our two little girls my wife and I were on furlough in Paris for a few days. In the Louvre museum that morning I had politely asked two attendants and a tourist where the statue of David was located. Both attendants grinned and pointed. “What fun – a bald and heavier American version of Inspector Clouseau,” they no doubt thought.
The same, “Where is the statue of David?” having been put to the tourist brought glaring disdain. Another born in the USA punk. But compassion gripped this old Frenchman when I asked him of David’s location. “Michelangelo’s David isn’t in Paris you dupe” was the way he put it, “it is in Florence, Italy!” “Dupe” pronounced like “toupee” is a French word for a misguided intellectual. I think.
When Michelangelo Buonarroti took a hammer and chisel and began work on a mass of marble he didn’t know the exact location of David either. However, he did know what he was after concerning David. In the brilliance that was his mind the sculpture of David was already finished. The strength of the statue’s sinews, the vulnerability of its nakedness, and courage of the Giant Slayer captured in stone were all on the map of his mind. Covey doesn’t get credit for “begin with the end in mind.” Michelangelo does.
Then, and only then, with David in his head did the master of all arts take his implements and begin to chip, chip, chip, away until David – his face, shoulders, and impressive torso – was formed in magnificent fashion. Remember, the original piece of marble had been marred to begin with – too many “taroli” or imperfections. Two other artists had chipped away at the slab for years only to discard it not having a David in their head. Only Michelangelo saw David in the imperfection and brought him out. Layer by layer, hammer by hammer, after four years of meticulous labor he liberated from this rocky prison his creation – a 14 foot 3 inch high enduring symbol of the renaissance. When you see it for yourself some day you will forget to breathe.
God goes Michelangelo and better on each of us in Christ. Ever thought about that? If you do it will steal your breath away in awe of our God. You see, Father God looks down into our little lives and he, in omni-competence sees what is yet to be. He sees the “we” before we are “we” – in him. In the book of the weeping prophet Jeremiah it is written that before he was formed in the womb, the LORD already saw him.
The holy plans, crushing storms, furies of bitter doubt, and all the preaching and striving Jeremiah would go through without a single convert were seen by God. More than that, what God by his grace would make Jeremiah on the other side was seen by the Master. He saw him before he was he. God preached that like this to his prophet: “The word of the LORD came to me saying, 5‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:4,5).
We rightly conclude God does the same for us. Didn’t the real David speak for us all when he said, “Our times are in your hands …” (Ps 31:15) or “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Ps 139:16). Think now. This is before we were we to know, God had a masterpiece in mind for you and me again – in him.
So we were born, are growing older, and living our lives – our one life that we are given to live here on earth. And all along, God will use the chisel of circumstances and hammer of happenstance as he begins to chip, chip, chip away. All sorts of things are used in the hand of the Master to chisel a David or Abigail, Mary or Joseph out of us. And the end goal? That others would see Jesus in us: his love, his compassion for others, his truth lived and shared.
What a terrible mass of “taroli” we were and still are at times this side of heaven apart from Jesus. But Christ bore our sin on the cross. “He became what we were not that we might be what we are not,” as Luther put it. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole” (Gal 3:13). Jesus became our sin and now by faith in him we are his right standing forgiven children with this amazing promise. I will work all things for your good and the glory of my holy name as I hammer and chisel my image out of your life. So what are the implications of knowing God will chisel a David or Abigail out of us? Here are but two.
Implication #1 – There is a pilot flying your life. He can be trusted.
Many years ago on a Southwest flight the pilot came on and firmly announced, “Ladies and gentlemen after this flight I will hang up my wings. This is my last flight. I am retiring.” Exactly everybody exploded in cheers and applause.
Here’s a thought. What if the pilot had nervously announced, “Ladies and gentleman, this is my very first flight so hang on. We sure hope to get there!” Exactly nobody would cheer and clap for that. We need to know is the one running the show someone I can trust. My friend, Jesus knows the “we” before we are “we.” He has all power. He loves us. You can trust. There is a pilot not only flying your life but the whole planet!
Implication #2 – Stop comparing. Be content in your current determined work for Christ.
A rooster noticed his hens weren’t producing eggs like they used to. He went down the road to an ostrich farm and brought an egg back. “Ladies” he announced with a cackle “I don’t want to intimidate anyone but this is what they are producing down the road!” Two of ten hens fainted.
God has in mind that you and I might be our own David’s or Abigail’s for him. Whom he calls he chooses and whom he chooses he chisels. Use what you have been given in whatever the circumstance you are in faithfully. Work hard. Pray, “Jesus melt and mold me into your image here and now.” Remember masterpieces take time. And always say with Paul, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” You watch he will bless and we will someday be that we he knew we are to be.